Rangers pitchers issuing too many walks

Rangers pitchers issuing too many walks

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitchers went into Wednesday's series finale against the Indians having issued 10 walks, the most in the American League. That's unacceptable to manager Jeff Banister and pitching coach Doug Brocail, even if it's only after two games.

"Lack of strikes and lack of first-pitch strikes," Brocail said. "We talk about throwing strikes every day. We've got to get better. We've got to put hitters on the defensive."

Banister had two main messages in Spring Training. One was the need to play "premium" defense. The other was to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters. That message is going to be delivered over and over again, no matter what point of the season. The Rangers allowed 534 walks last year, the second most in the AL.

"Look, these guys aren't trying to walk guys," Banister said. "We've had two games, and our walk totals are up. It's not even close to where we want it to be. They know it, we know it. It comes down to trust and staying in rhythm."

Banister said that it's more about first-pitch strikes than walks. Through two games, Rangers pitchers had 30 0-1 counts, and opponents were hitting .133 in those at-bats. Rangers pitchers had 28 1-0 counts, and opponents were hitting .429 in those situations.

"We feel very good about our pitching staff," Banister said. "We have a tremendous pitching staff, quality command, quality stuff. They'll continue to work and improve and compete at the same time."

Leclerc dazzles: Rookie right-hander Jose Leclerc retired all six batters he faced on Tuesday, striking out three of them. Leclerc has not allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings over his last eight Major League appearances going back to last September. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out 10 in that stretch.

"He's got electric stuff," Banister said. "He definitely has the stuff to be at the back end of a bullpen."

Rangers beat

Tyson Ross' next outing will be on Friday in an extended spring training game in Arizona. He is expected to throw two or three innings and from 30 to 45 pitches as he continues his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.

Shin-Soo Choo started in right field on Wednesday after being used as designated hitter in the first two games. Banister is determined not to let Choo go stale defensively, even though his primary role is DH. Choo could play in the field two or three times a week.

• All four of the Rangers' Minor League clubs open the season on Thursday. Right-hander Tyler Wagner will be the Opening Day pitcher for Triple-A Round Rock, and Connor Sadzeck will do so for Double-A Frisco. Left-hander Joe Palumbo pitches for Class A Down East, and right-hander Jonathan Hernandez pitches for Hickory.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.